How to grasp virtual leadership during COVID-19

On an individual level, leaders need to amplify trust, resilience, and communication with their team

How to grasp virtual leadership during COVID-19

by John Maley, HR Director, Sage Software Asia Pacific

Virtual leadership is no doubt something many had heard of prior to COVID-19. Enter the global lockdown with remote working becoming the norm for many businesses, and leaders have been catapulted into mastering virtual leadership to ensure engagement, performance and productivity remain consistent, or for some, increase.

During the first stage of COVID-19 businesses were reactive and things were changing by the hour. However, the last few months have seen the evolution of a ‘new normal’ with businesses finding a balance between changing restrictions and remote working.

For Leaders, the need to grasp “high performance leadership” to optimise their business can be delivered through a combination of leveraging the right technology and a greater focus on individuals.

How people science can boost productivity
Using technology to deliver insights will ensure leaders can focus their efforts where it will have the most impact and analytics can play a valuable role for any work environment.

HR analytics or ‘people science’ will allow leaders to understand the pain points and shortfalls that will arise in a remote working environment that could be effecting productivity, while also providing a route to increased efficiency and performance. It’s the first step in really understanding where virtual leadership can make an impact to a team.

Every day, we produce approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. The huge volume we are amassing as a society means companies have access to a wealth of insight and visibility concerning their employees.

People science is about understanding people and their behaviour at work, while generating more actionable insights to help businesses make better decisions about their workforce.

More than just a question of collecting numbers, people science elevates mining and reporting data to the next level of intelligence. The key to retrieving valuable insights lies in analysing data using this information to action insights, test hypotheses and identify solutions.

Imagine this technology could identify which employees could add most value? What about how your staff prefers to work, and is therefore happier and more productive? Or even who is likely to become a flight risk?

Tapping into this level of insight could revolutionise the way you work and engage with your people, design workforce experiences that enable your employees to do their best work, and ultimately improve performance and productivity.

Most companies base their business strategies on how well they know their customers, so isn’t it about time we pay this level of attention to getting to know our own employees too?

Developing interpersonal connections
On an individual level, leaders need to amplify trust, resilience, and communication with their team. In the absence of watercooler chats and face to face interactions, there needs to be new pathways to communications that help maintain rapport and conversation outside “just work”.

A simple virtual coffee can go a long way to establishing this rapport. The key here is to establish the difference between a check-up and a check-in. If an employee notices their boss is taking an active interest in how they’re coping working from home or if they need support with their workload they will register this as supportive behaviour and will appreciate the active interest their boss is taking in their wellbeing.

On the other hand, if this active interest centres around following up deadlines and ensuring the employee is online at certain times, this could be perceived as distrust and will impact not only the employee’s happiness, but their productivity too.

A good leader is always developing their emotional intelligence because this pandemic has caused not only a physical shift but also a mental one. It is an important time to build trust by showing you are human.

Don’t shy away from sharing pictures of your pets or discussing how you’re juggling life now that the kids at home. It’s a hard time for everyone and a little bit of humanity that shows we’re all in the same boat will go a long way on the road to building strong and lasting workplace relationships.

It is uncertain how long remote working will be the ‘new normal’ and whether current efforts to drive virtual leadership should be considered temporary or an evolving more permanent strategy. However, the skills and technology required to master this are as relevant for leaders in a post pandemic world as they are now.

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